Booking It! Broadway, Film and Recording Industry Go-To Vocal Coach Liz Caplan

By Adam Hetrick
and Michael Gioia
14 Feb 2014

Neil Patrick Harris and Liz Caplan
 

Let's talk vocal damage. How does one keep active in the community and audition scene if they are experiencing trouble with their vocal cords? What do you recommend for reaching and maintaining vocal health?
Caplan: A solid regimen is so important for the individual. My questions for my students on a daily basis are:

How are you feeling?
Have you been eating well? A decent amount of protein?
How have you been sleeping?
What's going on with your muscles? Any strain in your head or neck from working out?
How has your digestion been?
Are you moving your bowels regularly? (Believe it or not, constipation has blocked/prevented many a high note from freely coming out)

Then one must find what combination of all of the above works for them. Diet, exercise, sleep, hydration are all important factors in staying at the top of your game. I suggest that you find an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor who can support you when you need help. I have my favorites in New York, but most actors ask their closest friends whom they trust.



Part of this business is networking and socializing. How does one maintain proper vocal health, while out and about? Any tips?
Caplan: I do realize that being social is a big part of networking in order to make one's connections in the business. But vocal health has to take precedence over the great party or bar you were invited to - especially the night before a big audition. I'm a firm believer in moderation. If you find you have to show up somewhere (that is going to be loud) for political reasons, then make an appearance. Make sure you are breathing deeply. Loud restaurants and bars tend to make our ears accumulate more wax simply from the noise decibels. As a result, we tend to push down on our larynx and vocal cords to a potentially dangerous degree. And head and neck muscles lock up from loud noise or pressure in a room. 

Say something important, stay for 45 minutes max, and then go home, drink hot tea, take a bath, bring your energy back to center. Do some gentle neck rolls and don't forget to breathe. A state of chaos does not generally support a successful career in any aspect of show business.

How often should a performer attend voice lessons? What do you recommend for performers on a tight budget?
Caplan: Depending upon finances, immediate tasks at hand, and how quickly an actor wants to move forward, I recommend lessons once a week. Lessons can be recorded so easily now that once you take one lesson, you can repeat it every single day. If finances are an issue at the moment (I am always hopeful that this status will not be permanent), you can study as often as you are able. If that's twice a month, once every three weeks - as long as you are working with a teacher/coach whose language gels with your own understanding – you will still have an opportunity to excel. Again, my studios have apps in the Apple store that contain wonderful information on vocal health as well as vocal exercises for all genres.

You can also ask if the teacher of your choice, if [they are] too cost prohibitive, has associates or people who teach the same technique. I have associates who are licensed to teach my technique. They are highly trained by me and can offer lessons at a more affordable rate. This is generally done by referral.

The relationship with your voice teacher/coach is sacred. Singing is so personal, so exposed. It's important to feel a sense of trust, both with your voice and your personage with your chosen teacher. You want to find a teacher who has excellent qualifications and an equally stellar reputation. Always ask around the community.

If an actor is fortunate enough to find a great teacher/mentor early in his or her career, the rewards are fruitful and so fulfilling. I've had the pleasure of nurturing careers for decades. It continues to be a thrill when a student gets a callback, books a job and ultimately wins a Tony Award.

Take care of yourselves. Take it seriously. Be sure to enjoy the process.

I will look forward to hearing about your callback, you nailing the audition and your Tony Award!

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Learn more about Liz Caplan at Lizcaplanvocalstudios.com.

(Adam Hetrick is the editor in chief of Playbill.com. His work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com, as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillAdamH).